While groups such as the Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment are mentioned frequently for their widespread anti-piracy activities, the Europe-based Audiovisual Anti-Piracy Alliance (AAPA) is also engaged in key work to reduce online infringement.
Counting broadcasting giants BT, Sky, Canal+, beIN, DAZN, and OSN among its members, AAPA also plays home to major sports companies including the Premier League, Serie A, LaLiga and DFL. Not to mention powerful anti-piracy technology companies such as Irdeto, Nagra, and Viaccess-Orca.
With a key interest in preventing streaming piracy, much of it consisting of live events, AAPA members have played a crucial role in many recent pirate IPTV investigations but in common with other organizations with similar goals, the group would like additional tools to make its job easier and more effective.
Rapid Growth in Streaming Piracy Demands a Strong Response
According to AAPA, its members are concerned by the rapid growth and availability of unlicensed content online and as a result, are seeking assistance from the European Union.
One of the group’s first targets is Europe’s planned Digital Services Act (DSA), which rightsholders hope will include strict “know your customer” rules compelling hosting companies, domain registrars, and advertisers, to more closely vet their prospective clients. But for the AAPA, this is only the beginning.
No Additional Liability Exceptions, ‘Duty of Care’
Given the nature of its members, AAPA majors on the need to introduce measures to mitigate the growth of pirate IPV operations which, according to the group, represent a “low risk, high return” business model that is being exploited during the coronavirus pandemic as people tend to stay at home.
As the availability of illicit content availability soars, AAPA says there has been a lack of quality and response rate from online intermediaries to takedown notices. As a result, the European Commission’s intention to lay down “more stringent” rules is encouraging but “in no event” should that lead to new or broader liability privileges, exemptions, or protection regimes already provided for by existing law.
In respect of the DSA, the AAPA is seeking better tools to deal with piracy of live content, which it says is underserved by the current framework. The AAPA says that most of its members’ content is finger-printed and/or watermarked so it is possible to swiftly identify it. That means it may be treated differently, outside current limits.
“A proper ‘duty of care’ should apply to the so-called ‘passive platforms’, without putting into question current exemptions applicable to online intermediaries in the e-commerce Directive, it adds.
Takedown/Staydown, Rapid Live TV Piracy Blocking
In addition to the Know Your Customer proposals, AAPA is seeking the adoption of harmonized “notice and action” procedures, including broader criteria to justify takedown requests, the ability to send multiple links for removal in one notice to avoid delays in processing, and an obligation among platforms and providers to supply clear contact information where requests can be sent.
AAPA is also seeking new powers when dealing with live content, which represents a large proportion of its members’ repertoires. The group says there should be an obligation to implement a system for expeditious removal of live pirated content, which should be removed immediately or in any event, no longer than 30 minutes after a complaint.
Disputes over whether content should be taken down “should not result in the removal of illegal or potentially illegal content being delayed”, the group adds.
In common with other rightsholders that are required to issue repeat takedown notices for what is essentially the same content, AAPA is calling for a takedown/staydown regime, meaning that once content has been removed following an official notice, it should not subsequently reappear on the same platform.
Dealing With Repeat Infringers
Taking a lead from the United States, AAPA is seeking measures from the EU designed to prevent people from repeatedly infringing copyrighted content. The group is therefore calling for service providers to have clear and published anti-policies that contain deterrent measures for dealing with repeat infringers, including by restricting and/or blocking access to users who have been reported for uploading and even downloading illegal content.
Incorporating an additional element of ‘know your customer’, AAPA asks the EU to require that online platforms and services implement “layers of verification” to user accounts (one suggestion is ‘user-fingerprinting’ technology, to prevent pirate services from creating multiple accounts to evade suspensions and blocking.
Measures to Tackle ‘Off-Platform’ Infringement
According to AAPA, there are problems with platforms like YouTube and Facebook that go beyond pirated content stored on their platforms. In addition, these services also contain material, such as tutorial videos or comment sections, that direct users to off-site resources that allow for the consumption of unlicensed content. In these cases the Copyright Directive doesn’t apply, AAPA warns, so additional action is required.
“Measures should be taken at EU level to increase liability and duty of care of online content sharing platforms in this respect, regardless of whether such online content sharing platforms are considered as active or passive hosting service providers.”
Broader, More Flexible Injunctions Valid at the EU Level
Blocking injunctions that require ISPs to restrict access to named pirate sites and more recently servers involved in the supply of pirate IPTV services have been gaining traction around Europe. However, the AAPA believes that these could be more effective if, in the future, they are not only valid across borders but also have the ability to be issued repertoire-wide.
The suggestion appears to be based on the theory that an injunction obtained in one country of the EU should then be enforceable across all 27 countries, with the applicants’ entire catalog of content protected as a result.
“[A] central repository/database could be set up for site blocking injunctions issued by member states at the EUIPO. The latter could verify the details of the injunctions and provide translations into all official EU languages. This site-blocking record could then be used as a reference by rightsholders to have ISPs implement the blocking in their local territories,” the AAPA writes.
Auditing of Online Platform/Services’ Anti-Piracy Tools
Finally, while platforms such as YouTube and Facebook have implemented their own anti-piracy systems (such as Content ID), the AAPA’s members don’t appear to be 100% convinced they can be trusted or operated without bias. As a result, the group is demanding audits to weed out any potential issues.
“[C]ontent recognition tools deployed by online platforms to detect illegally uploaded copyright content should be made transparent to an independent authority (at national or European level) and regularly audited to make sure they do not include pro-piracy bias and that they cover the full spectrum of uploaded content with the same conditions,” the AAPA concludes.